Devil’s Night on HBO: Ward-Kovalev and Rigondeaux-Flores End in Referee Controversy
By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
Las Vegas, NV (June 18th, 2017)– Saturday evening, June 17, 2017, was an evening more suitable for Ripley’s Believe It or Not on HBO Pay-Per-View in both the preliminary to the main event, and then in the main event, at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Veteran referee Vic Drakulich came up with an answer in the first case, but it took five minutes of ringside discussions with other officials to solve it. As round one came to a close in Guillermo Rigondeaux versus Moises Flores, Rigondeaux grabbed Flores behind the head three times and punched at his head illegally. As Drakulich moved in to separate the combatants and warn Rigondeaux, both fighters threw legal punches after the bell. Rigondeaux’s punch landed, and Flores went backwards and lay on his back, milking the situation and going fish for a win by disqualification. Drakulich kneeled over Flores, who was not hurt, but choose not to get up.
It was eventually ruled a knockout, despite Rigondeaux’s punch being thrown after the bell. Drakulich ruled Rigondeaux’s punch was thrown at the bell and was legal, thus preventing Flores from milking the situation for a disqualification or a no-contest.
The issues remain complex: three consecutive head fouls with no point deduction, the referee stepping in between the fighters but not separating them, and the fighter on the losing end of the fouls clearly at a disadvantage in terms of athletic clarity, and getting hit either on or after the bell. The outcome should be appealed, and the appeal will go to the videotape.
While it is the human aspect of the game which makes the outcomes of professional sports most interesting, with instant replay of the end of the bout figuring in to solve this ‘case’, and play acting on the part of Flores, the outcome left more answers than questions.
Result: Guillermo Rigondeaux KO 1 Moises Flores, Super Bantamweights
Rigondeaux retains the WBA Super and wins the IBO World Super Bantamweight titles
Referee: Vic Drakulich
After seven rounds, Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev appeared to be boxing evening. Several times, however, Ward appeared to land either low blows or borderline low blows which the referee did not recognize in Kovalev’s favor. Kovalev looked to the referee, Tony Weeks, for help, but got none. Instead Weeks motioned the bout to continue. Kovalev’s failure to understand the circumstances of the remain worked against him in round eight, when the bout came to a strange end.
Ward landed a legitimate straight right hand lead power shot at close range to the head of Kovalev, who was obviously hurt. As the bout moved to the ropes, Ward landed a low blow followed by two borderline low blows on Kovalev, who doubled over on the ropes, slipped downwards, and did not make any attempt to arise or lift his head. Weeks awarded Ward a TKO. Ward did not give Kovalev recovery time, as he did on a previous occasion, as the referee again did not signal or acknowledge the obvious initial foul low blow. So, Ward was technically within his right to continue the bout and go after Kovalev, because the referee did not intervene after the initial low blow.
What Kovalev failed to see is how far the system went to protect Ward to Kovalev’s disadvantage. In the first bout, Kovalev knocked Ward down, and apparently won the bout on points, only to watch Ward win 114-113 on all cards. In this rematch, Ward was up 67-66 on two cards, while Kovalev was ahead 69-65 on the third card. Again, the judges were en route to giving Ward a win over Kovalev by one point on the cards, and no matter what Kovalev did, he was not going to get the decision. The stakes were in the super fight zone, one notch higher than the previous bout, and Kovalev, in search of referee’s proper action, got no respect at all. How Ward won the bout on three consecutive low blows is yet another situation worthy of appeal. After the bout, Kovalev said he was not hurt, could continue, and said he wanted another rematch. Kovalev’s stock as a boxer was tanked due to the three low blows, and Ward was allowed to get away with them and others on the referee’s discretion.
It can be said in both bouts, the referee had the bird’s eye view of the situation, and thus made the fairest call of all. I mean, we the spectators were not in the ring as close as the referees were. The final endings, while at the discretion of the referees involved, did not do justice to the sport of boxing.
Ward retains WBA Super, IBF, IBO Light Heavyweight Titles, Wins Ring Magazine Title
Referee: Tony Weeks